Hurricane Dorian Spilled More Than a Million Gallons of Oil in the Bahamas

Workers  clean up the oil from the ground the South Riding Point oil facility.
Workers clean up the oil from the ground the South Riding Point oil facility.
Photo: Courtesy of Equinor

Nearly 1.5 million gallons of oil have spilled since Hurricane Dorian destroyed an oil storage facility on Grand Bahama Island last month. The worst part? Equinor, the company that owns the oil facility, still isn’t done cleaning up the mess, which means the final total will be higher than it is right now.

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Erik Haaland, a press officer with Equinor, confirmed to Earther on Monday that the Norway-based company had recovered 35,000 barrels of oil as of Sunday. That amounts to 1.47 million gallons—and the company still hasn’t released a final estimate of oil lost.

The number of barrels recovered thus far is nearly three times the amount the company said it had lost a week ago. The amount of lost oil stood at 12,000 barrels, which equals 504,000 gallons, Eskil Eriksen, another company press spokesperson, told Earther last week.

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The Equinor South Riding Point oil facility sits on the southern coast of Grand Bahama Island near the town of High Rock. It stored 75 million gallons of oil, Romauld Ferreira, the Bahamas’ environment and housing minister, told local news. But it remains unclear how much of that oil has been spilled into the environment. Enough has spilled to paint the on-site containers and leave a pungent smell throughout the area, according to those who have visited. And he clean-up effort has required 250 people and heavy machinery (such as vacuum trucks) on the ground.

At more than a million gallons, the Grand Bahama Island spill one of the more significant single spills in recent history. To compare, the 2017 Keystone Pipeline spill in South Dakota released 407,400 gallons of oil. After Hurricane Katrina struck a Chevron oil facility in 2005, some 991,000 gallons of oil were discharged. The Gulf South, of course, is home to far more fossil fuel infrastructure than the Bahamas, so Katrina wound up causing some 50 oil spills throughout the region. One spill is more than enough to cause some serious damage, though.

The Hurricane Dorian spill’s impact on the Bahamas is still a giant question mark. So far, authorities have noted that some birds and a goat were “impacted,” as local news reported. The facility sits along the ocean, and the company had spotted some oil offshore, though it hasn’t confirmed that the oil belongs to its facility. Oil is no good for marine ecosystems, especially the coral reefs that exist along the island’s coast. It’s no good for terrestrial ecosystems, either. Oil is toxic as hell—for plants, animals, and people.

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More than a month since Hurricane Dorian pummelled the Bahamas, oil still lingers. And the Atlantic hurricane season isn’t even over yet.

Yessenia Funes is climate editor at Atmos Magazine. She loves Earther forever.

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DISCUSSION

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In avoidance of a busman’s holiday with wildass assumptions and guesswork here in the comments I recommend Earther (OK, I mean Yessenia) track the progress of emergency spill response and environmental remediation efforts. Also include a soup to nuts explainer of the corrective action process. The responsible party should have a communications persons tasked to deal with the press and public. So should the Bahamian environment agency. This could be an interesting story, assuming parties would want to tell it and someone would want to write about it.

The reason why I mention this is that there seems to be a disconnect between the business of spill response and remediation and the general public’s understanding of what it all entails. This disconnect has been going on for at least 40 years.

On the other hand, someone in the environmental remediation business got a nice project location to be the onsite manager at for awhile. And of course, it would be a nice place to do journalisming.